How many times have you come back from a shoot, only to find out that your photos have a slightly strange tinge to them? If your pictures are a little too blue or green, your camera probably made a mistake with the white balance somewhere along the way. It happens to the best of us, and there are a few very easy ways to correct it with most post-processing software. I’ll show you how.
In the last tip on white balance, I described what the effect is and what it looks like. Now you know what it is, let's fix it.
In this tutorial, I am only going to talk about Photoshop and Picasa. Most people either have Photoshop or Photoshop Elements on their computer. If you don’t, that’s okay. You can download Picasa for free at Picasa.google.com. It’s very similar to the Mac's iPhoto and allows you to do the same basic adjustments.
How To Adjust White Balance With Picasa
It’s really easy to adjust your white balance on the fly with Picasa. Simply open up the application, pick your photo, and go to the tuning tab.
From the tuning tab, you have two options. You can either use the Neutral Color Picker or play with the Color Temperature slider. Let’s go through both of those options.
1) Neutral Color Picker. This is usually the easiest option if you have any gray or white in your image. The neutral color picker allows you to select an area of the photo to be designated “gray” or neutral. You select the eyedropper, click on some white in the photo and Picasa does the rest.
While this is a very easy way to correct any white balance issues, it doesn’t always come up with the best tones. Particularly if there is no white in the image. If need be, you can make some smaller adjustments with the color temperature slider below.
2) Color Temperature. I prefer this option because it gives me a little more control. Whenever you are adjusting white balance, you are basically playing with the color temperature anyway.
In Picasa, this is a simple slider. If you want your photo to have warmer colors, just move the slider to the right. If you want cooler tones, slide to the left. Once the adjustment is made, your photo will be saved automatically.
Don’t try to go for “realism” when you are doing this. If you want a warmer photo, just make it warmer until you like what you see. The same goes for the cooler colors. It’s all about what you want, not what your photo “should” be.
How To Adjust White Balance In Photoshop
Photoshop is a lot more sophisticated. In fact, there are many ways to adjust white balance with Photoshop. For now, I’m only going to cover my personal favorite.
To adjust the white balance in Photoshop, you are going to select the layers --> new adjustment layer option. Once you do this, you will be prompted with a box asking you which kind of adjustment layer you would like to create. Select “levels.”
Levels controls the intensity of different shades of Red, Green, and Blue in your photo. When you create your new adjustment layer, click “ok” when the new layer box pops up. The next menu is much more important.
You should see a histogram by now. The default channel is the RGB channel, but you will want to switch between each individual channel and make adjust for the three different colors.
Do you see those three eye droppers on the bottom right hand corner? Each of them represents the default white, black, and neutral grey points in the photo. To start setting the white balance, click on the dropper and then click on a spot in the photo that should correspond to that color. For the white dropper, pick a wall you know to be white. The same goes for the grey and black droppers. Click on a part of the photo you know to be black or grey for each.
It’s worth your time to zoom in on an area to make sure the point you are picking corresponds to the color you want. Sometimes little patches of colors are hidden inside of larger patches.
You can set the white, grey, and black points for all three color channels, or you can use the RGB channel and save a little time. If you aren’t using different white or grey points for each channel, go ahead and use the RGB channel.
That’s all you need to do to fix the white balance in your photos.
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